Don’t cut a sorry figure or be the butt of jokes for being a vegetarian while your friends have their fill of kebabs, haleem and biryani this season. And don’t ‘make do’ with apologetic vegetarian versions of these popular non-veg categories. We explored the city for exotic vegetarian food from Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines and here’s what we found

All Seasons

Remember this restaurant if you crave for Lebanese cuisine all year round. Their servings are generous and there are plenty of choices. Topping the list is the Cold Mezze Platter offering favourites like Hummus, Falafel and Tabouleh, apart from Labneh (Lebanese cream cheese and strained yogurt) and Muhammara (Spicy crushed nuts and red bell peppers cooked in olive oil). The mains include Kodar Saloana (mixed vegetables in garlic and coriander sauce; Spinach Stew; Moussaka Bil Beshami (roasted egg plant, mushrooms, zucchini and tomatoes in béchamel sauce) and Karnabeet (mixed vegetables in cumin sauce), all of these served with fragrant rice. End your meal with Baklava or Umm Ali (puff pastry served with nuts, raisins and cream). Filled to the brim? Take a sip of Arabic coffee or Qahwa.

Park Hyatt

Shady Anees Abdallah Yared, executive sous chef of Hyatt Regency Baku (Azerbaijan), is back in town to lend his distinguished touch to the Middle East food festival. Begin with a refreshing drink made of apricots before you pore over the elaborate menu. Arabic bread is served with lipsmacking dips (with garlic, olives… you name it) and your pick from cold and hot Mezzeh. Time-tested favourites like Hummus, Muttabal, Tabouleh, Fattoush and Muhammara compete with Waraq Enab (vine leaf rolls with tomato, onion, lemon, parsley and rice), Loubieh Bil Zeit (green beans, tomato, onion, garlic and olive oil), Mousakat Badnjan (eggplant, tomato, onion, garlic, chickpeas) Zatoun Halabi (a salad made with olives and pine nuts) and fried vegetable plate.

For the mains, there’s the delicious, fragrant Vermicelli Rice tossed with pine nuts and olive oil. The rice is good to eat on its own and gets better with custom-made flavourful stew of cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant and tomato or the okra stew with tomato, onion and coriander. There is a large selection of desserts (16). Look the other way if you’re counting calories. Baklava is at its best with crisp pastries stuffed with minced pistachios, walnuts and mixed nuts. Mohalabeh or the milk pudding comes in two variants — topped with apricots and chocolate. The latter is easily the winner. The Kunafa bil Kishta and Warbat be Kishta are testimony to the glorious pastries from Middle East. The menu also has Kataif, Barazik, Graibeh and assorted dates stuffed with pistachio, walnut, coconut flakes and dusted in chocolate. The festival is on till August 9.

Vivanta by Taj

The vegetarian spread for Iftar here has delicacies like Achari aloo ke garlay, Paneer ka soola, Subz haleem, Subz ki shaami, Tarkari Ki Nehari, Sem ki phalli, Tamater kut mein and Dal shikampoor. The vegetarian bestseller here is Subz ki lukhmi. “It is an authentic Hyderabadi snack popularly eaten as a starter. Generally, the stuffing inside is of lamb but here we have soya replacing it,” says chef Vasu Venkat Reddy. The process is simple with carrot, beans and green peas sautéed and soya is added. A handful of green chillies make it spicy and a dash of lemon juice in the end gives a tangy taste. Fried onions, cashews and almonds and coriander add to the garnishing. The dough is made of maida and some yoghurt. The dish, made in square, triangle or half-moon shape is rich and when you bite, you will relish its crispy texture and its soft stuffing. “This dish is made for special occasions and also enjoyed during monsoon,” says Vasu Reddy.

ITC Kakatiya

There is a healthy tag attached to the vegetarian spread of ITC Kakatiya for iftar. One can enjoy their corn and sprout salads, Patti samosas and vegetarian lukhmis and Hummus with bread. If you are game, try their green peas, beet root and soya haleem. Beetroot gets an interesting makeover.

“We were contemplating on what vegetable to use for vegetarian haleem and chose beetroot for it gives the colour and texture and also adds to the nutrition value,” says executive chef Sekar. The fibrous part of beetroot is taken and is finely grated and added in the final stages. “Haleem is easy on the digestive system and we just tweaked it a bid to add the vegetable. We wanted vegetarians to come and have a feel of haleem,” says Sekhar.

Ofen

Ofen serves Falafel wraps and warm Pita with Hummus all year round. Their chefs whip up cold and hot Mezze Platters this time of the year with Baba Ganoush, Tabouleh, Fattoush and Mutabel. You can also place order Baklawa and Basbusa.